The three Republican candidates for the 11th legislative district – Lori Annetta, Kim Eulner, and Marilyn Piperno – currently lead their Democratic incumbent opponents in what may shape up to be another upset victory for Republicans.
Annetta narrowly leads State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), while Eulner and Piperno have more substantial advantages over Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune). The outcome in all three races will likely depend on outstanding ballots that have yet to be counted.
All three Democrats were first elected to the legislature by defeating Republican incumbents. Downey and Houghtaling surprisingly beat Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Colts Neck) and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean Township) by narrow margins in 2015, and Gopal followed suit in 2017 when he defeated State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank).
The incumbent trio didn’t appear obviously vulnerable earlier this cycle, but as Republican attention shifted away from other districts like the 16th, the Monmouth County-based 11th district rose as a potential upset victory. To that end, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent $100,000 promoting their party’s Assembly candidates.
Annetta, Eulner, and Piperno weren’t exactly ready for prime time; their fundraising never took off, and they repeatedly skipped scheduled debates against their Democratic opponents. Gopal and his team also took little for granted, raising and spending hundreds of thousands to guard against a surprise like the ones they themselves achieved in previous cycles.
But win or lose, theirs was a strong showing tonight, and might become one of the night’s many unexpected victories for Republicans.